Oh King Uzziah would that you had listened to the good priests when they withstood you at the gates of the temple. For 50 years you served the people of God well. You sought the Lord faithfully. You taught the people rightly to fear the Lord. After all the damage your father did with his half-hearted devotion to God you were a lion in his place. Your fame was spreading, and you were strong because the God whom you served helped you marvelously.
But in the end… you failed. You failed yourself, your people, and your God. The strength God had given, you came to believe was your own. In pride you forced your way into the temple against the objections of the good priests who restrained you! In your anger you sought to usurp your will against Yahweh’s. You foolishly defied the Lord’s instruction and, in your arrogance, thought you could bypass the priests and offer incense yourself on the altar. And the Lord struck you – your reign was taken from you and you lived as a leper – isolated and alone- until the day of your death.
And now I fear for the people – again they serve false gods and offer sacrifices in high places. They refuse to turn whole heartedly to the Lord. Oh Lord help us!
I fell asleep.
I open my eyes and surrounding me is an incomprehensible scene. My heart shakes in awe and fear as my eyes focus on the center of my vision. Looming in front me – a great throne and the one seated on the throne rivets my attention. In a moment I know I am in the presence of the King – one unlike dead Uzziah – one whose reign had never and would never cease. The King of Kings. His throne is like no other I have ever seen – towering above me. I quickly look away sensing deeply in my soul that I do not belong here. As I look away my eyes trace the train of His robe which fills the entire temple in its grandeur. Above him stand beings unlike any I have ever seen. Radiant and powerful they stand with six wings – they too unable to look directly at the throne of God.
Then suddenly the one on the left calls out as if intensely compelled. His voice feels as though it emanates from the very anchors of the earth – It surrounds me – shaking and reverberating in the thresholds of the chamber.
“Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts;
The whole earth is filled with His glory!”
As he speaks the whole room is engulfed in smoke. The absolute truth of the words resonates to me. I sense their reality as surer than the ground I stand on. And I am cut to the heart. I have no place here. I too am compelled and words spill almost involuntarily out of my mouth…
“Woe is me! For I am lost!
I am a man of unclean lips – and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.
And now my eyes have seen the KING – The Lord of Hosts!”
I collapse in fear and awe certain my destruction and death are imminent. My eyes catch movement and I flinch. The great seraphim who had just called out mightily in worship now is moving towards the altar. In the altar I can see heat rising and glowing coals. He produces a pair of tongs and picks up a hot coal and turns and looks at me. Suddenly, he is directly in front of me and thrusts the burning coal to my lips. I have no time to resist but fear surges in me sure that my doom is sealed.
Intense heat and pain fill my senses and I reel backwards caught in an odd sensation of burning and new life, rather than death, coursing through my body. The seraphim speaks again in words that again rattle but now even more deeply in the walls of my being:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
He looks at me expectantly as the shocking truth of the words work their way from my soul to my head. I feel their impact before I can even fully process them. Shalom and life fill me up as I realize as sure as God himself is the great I AM – my sin has been covered, my guilt taken away! In awe I again collapse to the ground filled with relief and gratitude.
Then He who sits on the throne speaks:
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Again words gush out of me:
“Here I am send me!”
Whatever your purposes my heart says “Yes! I will go!”
The King speaks again:
“Go and say to this people:
Keep on hearing BUT do not understand
Keep on seeing BUT do not perceive
Make the heart of this people dull,
Their ears heavy,
Blind their eyes,
Lest they see with their eyes,
Lest they hear with their ears,
Lest they understand with their hearts,
And turn and be healed.”
I sense the justice of Yahweh’s words. I sense the wickedness of my people. Yet I am stricken at these words and I blurt out:
“For how long, O Lord?”
And he answers:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without people
Until the land is a desolate waste
Until the Lord removes the people far away
Until the forsaken places are many in the land
Even when a tenth remain in it
It will be burned again
Until only a stump remains.
The holy seed is its stump.”
I awoke from my vision. My emotions were jumbled but my mission clear and certain. God alone is King and He does whatever he pleases. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. His favor rests on me undeservedly this I know. Yet for many of my countrymen His wrath remains on them. This is also just. And my heart is fixed on his promise that a holy seed will remain by his free mercy. Truly it must be said:
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts;
And the whole earth is full of His glory!”